Tyson Slater’s double-overtime goal against the Victoria Grizzlies gave the Trail Smoke Eaters a dramatic 5-4 win at the BCHL Bauer Showcase on Sunday.
The overtime victory over the Grizzlies was an important win for the Smoke Eaters and a much needed confidence builder, after suffering a 5-2 loss against the Powell River Kings on Saturday.
“It was just good for our group to just find a way to win,” said Smoke Eater coach and GM Cam Keith. “We’ve been struggling with playing a full 60 minutes, we had lapses in our games, and the confidence isn’t quite there as a whole. So it was one of those wins that’s back and forth, a roller-coaster type situation, so I’m really proud of our team that they held it together.”
Smokies defenceman Slater played the game hero, as he jumped up into the rush to create a 3-on-1, took a pass in the slot from Luke Santerno and blasted it low, stick-side on goalie Mitchell Benson at 2:23 of the second overtime period to lift Trail over the Island Division leading Grizzlies.
“I don’t know how he (Slater) does it but he’s got a knack for reading plays,” said Keith. “He usually finds those second wave, quiet area goals and he’s a natural goal scorer for a defenceman when he gets in tight like that so it’s nice to see.”
Despite outshooting Victoria 14-4 in the opening period, the Grizzlies jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Jake Stevens and Cory Hatcher. Trail fought back in the second when Joshua Laframboise made it 2-1 at 5:17 with assists to Santerno and Kale Howarth, and two minutes later, Howarth scored his second short-handed marker of the season wiring a shot past Benson to tie the game at 2-2.
But Victoria replied on a short-handed tally of their own to regain the lead before the period was out, and held a 14-11 edge in shots in the period.
The Smoke Eaters stormed back again with Ross Armour tying the game at the eight minute mark of the third on a nice set up from Andre Ghantous. Santerno then put the Smokies ahead 4-3 with just under five minutes to play on a good individual effort, but with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Victoria’s Tyler Welsh tied it with just 26 seconds left on the clock to force overtime.
The goal could have deflated the Smoke Eaters, but the team came out strong in the extra frame, outshooting Victoria 5-0 in the first five-minute OT before sealing the win.
“You look at the overtime we outshot them in the first 4-on-4 against a very skilled Victoria team that has already showed that they’re going to be one of the top offensive teams in the BCHL and we held them to 25 shots.”
Smokies goalie Linden Marshall stopped 21 of those for his first win of the season, while Benson stopped 37 for the Grizzlies. Laframboise had strong performances in both games and was named the game’s first star while Santerno took third star honours with a goal and two assists. Victoria’s Cody Van Lierop earned second star with three assists on the night.
“Laframboise had a really good weekend, same with Santerno,” said Keith. “We put them on a line together and they seem to click really well.”
The Showcase puts all of the BCHL players on stage for NCAA and professional hockey scouts, with each team playing two games over the four-day event.
Along with Santerno and Laframboise, players like Howarth, and rookies Ghantous and Braeden Tuck made an impression, and Keith was upbeat about the way the team responded under the added pressure.
“I kept hearing from a lot of different scouts that we were way further ahead than we had been in the past, so it was a very positive weekend for our guys. We drew more attention to Trail then we have in the past, and moving forward the kids see that if you play the game the right way – you get the results, and then you get the exposure that you want.”
In Saturday’s match, a second period let-down led to a 21-shot barrage and 3-0 Powell River lead as the Kings skated to a 5-2 victory over Trail.
Howarth and Jack Sitzman scored in the first minute of the third to bring Trail to within one but goals from Cam Donaldson and an empty netter from Curtis McCarrick capped off the scoring for the Kings. Powell River outshot Trail 39-29 with Zach Dyment getting the loss in net for Trail and Mitch Adamyk earning the win. The Kings’ Ted McGeen was the game’s first star, the Smokies’ Laframaboise was named the second star, and Donaldson the third star.
“We could have easily come out with two wins – or two losses and been in a spot where we’re 1-5 and really chasing our tails,” said Keith. “We’ve proven that we can play with some of the better teams in the league now and that’s a huge team booster as well.”
Trail’s next game goes in Prince George on Thursday, and will stop in Penticton on the return trip for a match against the Vees on Saturday.